ABOUT KUNEKUNE PIGS
Pronunciation: “coo-nee coo-nee”
Size: 200-400 lbs average, 24-30 inches at the shoulder
Colors: Cream, Ginger, Black, Brown, Ginger/Black, Black/Ginger, Tri, Black/White, White/Black, Brown/White, White/Brown (see official color chart)
Kunekunes are a rare small-medium sized pig from New Zealand. The breed was developed by the indigenous Maori people as a lard pig. The name kunekune translates as “short and round” referring to the pigs’ compact rounded physiques. (Fun trivia: remember the pig sidekick in Moana? He was a kune!)
Kunes are a true grazing pig. Unlike most other monogastric animals, their efficient metabolisms are able to extract nutrition from grasses and other roughage. Kunes have short snouts that are just right angle for grazing but poor for rooting. Young rascal kunes and adults on poor pasture will sometimes root in the dirt for worms and rhizomes, but for the most part kunes are non-rooting pigs. This feature is extremely important for those of us interested in soil regeneration as it allows mycelia networks to be undisturbed.
Kunes are extremely friendly, social, and gentle pigs. Kunes form unusually tight social bonds with their fellow kunes, which scientists have been studying in order to understand how to improve the lives of commercial hogs in confinement farms. As a result, it is our policy to sell piglets in at least a pair so customers can enjoy happier, healthier pigs.
Their easy going personalities mean that kunes get along well with other species with proper introductions, and they very rarely push fences once familiarized with them. Simply put, everything that makes people cranky about keeping conventional pigs is not true of kunekunes. It is almost miraculous and must be experienced to be believed.
Kunes are diversely useful pigs. They are famous for their rich, ruby red pork and creamy white lard. Their largely plant-based diet makes for exceptionally clean tasting meat, which is increasingly becoming known as some of the tastiest pork (and charcuterie in particular) in the world. Given that kunes require 1/7 the amount of grain as pigs twice their size and have a very low environmental impact when rotationally grazed, this breed has a lot of promise as a source of sustainable meat.
The one downside to raising kunes for meat is that they are ridiculously cute and lovable. However, this makes them excellent farm companions and land management tools much like goats. (Except much easier to keep fenced in!) Kunes will happily clean your property of cats ear dandelions, dock, wisteria, and other weeds. It should be noted that all pigs are happiest outside where they can use their active brains to forage for snacks. House pigs almost inevitably become irritable from boredom, resulting in thousands of pigs abandoned at shelters, auctions, and even on the road. For these reasons, Slow Farm does not sell pigs for housepets.
It should be noted that kunes are NOT miniature pigs. Some pet pig breeders have tried to miniaturize the breed, in our opinion to the detriment of the animals’ health. We are all for folks enjoying their pigs as companions, but only in a way that allows pigs to naturally express their “pigness.”
From the New Zealand Kunekune Association
“The Kunekune is a unique New Zealand breed of pig. Unfortunately, the origin of the breed is somewhat uncertain, as there is a lack of documented information on its introduction and early population numbers. Early records did not differentiate the Kunekune from other pigs such as the Captain Cooker and other breeds and crossbreeds kept by the Maori people.
The general consensus is that the Kunekune were probably brought to New Zealand in the 1800’s by whalers operating in New Zealand waters, and were traded with the Maoris. Pigs with similar characteristics occur in Asia, South America, and the Polynesian Islands, but the resemblance is slight and suggestive only of a possible common ancestry.
The history of the breed is one of a close association with the Maori people, and in the early 1900’s were usually only found associated with Maori settlements. In early times the Kunekune were prized for their placid nature and their tendency not to roam, as they have always been a domesticated pig. They were also valued for the quantity of meat and fat, the fat being used for preserving food.
In the late 1970’s the breed was ‘rediscovered’ and at that time it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred Kunekunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only 6 sows and 3 boars in 1978, the Kunekune now numbers in the thousands.”